The season opened in late April with a match at home which had to be abandoned due to a blizzard which made it impossible to see the white jack.
The increase in membership was becoming a problem as some members could not get selected for games very often. There was a suggestion that the principal officers of the club, i.e. the President, Secretary, and Treasurer should be selected whenever they were available as a recompense for all the work that they did, but when this was put to the vote and defeated, the Secretary resigned.
A decision was taken to restrict the membership to 120 for men and 40 for ladies, but later in the season the ladies’ limit was increased to 50.
After serving as Bar Chairman for many years, Stan Winbush relinquished the role to John Whelan and Gordon Symonds. Nicky Walker requested that he be allowed to defend the club championship he had won in 1984, but as he had moved to another club and Leamington was no longer his principal club, permission was refused.
A new Ladies Honours Board was presented in memory of Kay Kennard. A sad sign of the times was that it became necessary to fit locks to the refrigerators in the kitchen!
The EBA-Glynwed Masters tournament was held at Leamington, where we saw the appearance of David Bryant, a young Tony Allcock, and several other ‘names’ who were to become very well known in bowling circles.
In spite of the membership figures it is surprising to note that in their first game of the season the men had insufficient players. However, on the greens over the season the men had a 60% success rate, with the ladies faring slightly better.
For the first time the Ladies Invitation Mixed Pairs competition was introduced and the club also agreed to the purchase of six ‘pushers’ for the ladies.
Two games that were hosted during the season were a visit from a touring side from Plymouth, and the County Ladies played Oxfordshire during July.
Eddy Arnett and Bill Edkins agreed to run a raffle at all home matches and they still continue to do so.
It was decided to enter two teams in the National Two-Fours the following season with the aim of blooding new players.
Personal success came to Stan Winbush and Ivor Harris when they won the British Rail Pairs championship, while Jean Muddeman reached the last 16 in the National Singles.
With membership still rising, the men increased their ceiling to 125, while the ladies had a maximum of 60.
The ladies’ changing rooms, which had been the cause of numerous complaints in recent times, were finally decorated by the council, and other facilities were added, including new ventilators in the clubroom.
The committee had to address a problems with one particular men’s skip, whose attitude on the green was resulting in players dropping out of games if selected on his rink.
The Leamington Men’s Open Tournament now had entries in excess of 1000 and John Whelan agreed to take over as Tournament Secretary.
Interest was being generated over the building of an indoor bowling green in the town, and a steering committee was set up to progress the development of it. John Whelan represented the club on this committee and was the driving force behind it, with a lot of input from other clubs and from the council. A petition of 400 names was presented by interested persons.
Meanwhile the club made a donation of £200 to Stratford-on-Avon Bowling Club towards their new green.
Once again there was considerable discussion in committee over members who did nothing to help the club and who did not put their names down for matches. There were also several players who did not put their names down for away games or when the weather was slightly inclement.
Marjorie Powell was elected as President of Warwickshire Women’s Bowling Association, and in recognition of this she presented a trophy to the club for the Mixed Pairs competition.
Dale Best was appointed as Amenities Officer to Warwick District Council and subsequently proved to be an excellent supporter of the club and a fine ambassador for bowls generally. He became a strong link with the EWBA, was instrumental in attracting a number of outside events to the greens at Victoria Park, and he played a very big part in the staging of World Bowls in 1996 and 2004.
A letter was received regarding the formation of a mid-week Triples League for South Warwickshire clubs, but the committee felt that there would be insufficient interest from our members. A change of heart made them decide to enter a team in what was to become the Courier League, a format that has subsequently proved to be very popular. The club were the winners in the inaugural year and have gone on to win it on a number of occasions and we now field four teams.
A successful year on the greens saw the men win 17 of their 27 games, while Bill Ward and Nicky Walker failed by 1 shot to win the Midland Counties Pairs title.
A coaching scheme was devised with Jean Muddeman being appointed as the Club Coach. The scheme enabled the coach to recommend to the selection committee when a player reached the level required to play in club matches.
The District Council agreed there was an urgent need to update the facilities at Victoria Park, but shortage of funds meant that they had to start setting money aside for the project. At the same time the council were getting behind the growing pressure to set up an indoor bowling centre in the town.
The club suffered a great loss with the death of Treasurer, Gordon Abbott, who had been in the post for 16 years. His memory is perpetuated with a trophy in his name, purchased jointly by the two clubs, for the annual fixture between Leamington and the Home Guard.
Bowlers were encouraged when Warwick District Council appointed a development officer to produce a feasibility report on a proposed Indoor Bowls centre. As a result, the Economic Development Committee approved in principle a new centre on the site of the old tennis courts, and appointed an architect.
Not quite so promising was the new contract entered into between Warwick District Council and Warwick Services for the maintenance of the greens. The club were not consulted and certain conditions were put in which were totally unacceptable to us. A representative of the council met the club committee to discuss these and report back.
The men once again had a reasonably good season, winning over 60% of their games, and in the process putting a halt to the run of 24 games without defeat by neighbours Avenue.
The Home Guard were the first winners of the Gordon Abbott trophy, but the club again won the Courier League, and two Leamington rinks contested the final of the South Warwickshire championships.
The ladies decided on a new uniform and agreed to wear blazers in French navy blue, although it was stressed that this was not a condition of membership.
Four designs had been submitted for the new Indoor Bowls centre, which were to go before Warwick District Council for approval. Whilst one of these was successful, the local residents’ association, CLARA, were mounting a strong campaign against the centre, and were supported by one of the local political parties, who declared that they were against any sizeable buildings or car parks being erected in green open spaces.
Numerous letters filled the pages of the local paper with arguments both for and against, and despite the council giving the go-ahead the matter was referred to the Department of the Environment.
Whether or not it was due to the new contractors, the greens were not in as good a condition as in previous years, and once again it was becoming difficult to get members to put their names down for games.
A run of bad defeats in mid-season affected the results for the year, but the Courier League team marched on to win the title for the third year running. It was agreed that, if permitted, a second team would be entered the following year.
Ivor Harris, won the singles title at the Llandrindod Wells tournament, a very prestigious event. Subsequent to this the club has developed a very strong link with Llandrindod, and the annual mixed fixture is always very well supported.
Mary Abbott presented a trophy to the club in memory of her husband, Gordon, and this is awarded each year to the runner-up in the championship singles.
After the poor standard of the previous year, the greens showed a marked improvement.
Equally pleasing was the number of players putting their names down for matches, many of which were over-subscribed. A suggestion was put forward that a mini-gala be held on Saturday afternoons for those players not selected, but this was not pursued.
RLS 2 entered the Courier League and acquitted themselves well, but unfortunately the club lost one of its most prominent players with the death of Chris Shakespeare.
The Public Enquiry into the proposed indoor bowls centre was opened in July and lasted for three weeks. Meanwhile the English Indoor Bowling Association were looking at the possibility of moving their headquarters to Leamington.
Warwick District Council supported a bid to bring Women’s World Bowls to the town in 1996, and the local paper offered support with a big supplement in the Courier, but once again some objectors were very vociferous in their opposition. However the EWBA voted in favour of Leamington hosting the event and plans were set in motion.
January saw the announcement that the Environment Secretary had, on the advice of his inspector, turned down the application for the Indoor Bowling centre. The news was greeted with disappointment and dismay, not only by the bowlers, but also by the Council, the Chamber of Trade, and local hoteliers. Subsequently a new cricket pavilion was built in the middle of the ‘open space’ of the park, which is thought by many to be far more obtrusive and ugly than the planned bowling centre.
There were still problems of what to do for those not selected for games on Saturday afternoons.
In only their second year in the Courier League, RLS 2 won division 2, while RLS 1 finished as runners-up in the first division.
Plans were stepping up for Women’s World Bowls, and Warwick District Council submitted suggestions for a new pavilion, including improved facilities for bowlers, with an estimate of £350,000 The club were asked for input and John Whelan took on the mantle of adviser. As a result he was able to get many ideas adopted which were not in the original plans. The club were advised that during the event our usage of the greens might be affected, but it was also announced that plans were in hand to lay a 5th green.
Plans for the new clubhouse and pavilion, incorporating many features of the old building, were released after much discussion, and by October all the memorabilia and fittings from the original building were put into storage as demolition of the old clubhouse began.
The Ladies’ Section started fund-raising in earnest, so that they could host some of the visiting competitors from around the world. Having been advised that we would lose the use of the greens for about four weeks, both Men’s and Ladies’ Fixture Secretaries were having to juggle games for 1996 with many of the matches being played away.
The new green was laid adjacent to ‘D’ green under the giant oak tree bounding the river walk, negotiations began for a new lease to take account of what would be improved facilities, and the Ladies under 25 International Championships were hosted prior to the EWBA National Championships.
It was a very good season, with the men winning 22 of their 29 games, and the ladies winning 21 out of 31 matches, with one drawn. For the first time a mixed fixture was played away at Llandrindod Wells, the home of Welsh bowling.
Because of the uncertainty of what might be facing the club once the new clubhouse was completed, subscriptions were raised by £3, the first increase in 3 years.
The season had started with the first of the club tours in recent years, and under the guidance of Tony Barnett went to Ilfracombe. This proved to be very popular and each year subsequently there has been a tour to the West Country under his leadership
This was to be a very busy year for the club, and was also a year of hard work and improvisation. For much of the early part of the season there was no clubhouse for members and changing facilities left a lot to be desired.
Whilst there was eager anticipation by many of the new facilities and the major events to come, some bowlers felt that members would be deprived of the greens too much and they resigned to join other clubs. The vast majority who remained were able to see the results of all the efforts, and when the new complex, which had cost £420,000, was opened on July 15th by the Chairman of the Council, this was followed by an open evening for members to view all the changes.
Not only was approval given to the building but also to the fitting out of the club under the strenuous efforts and leadership of John Whelan. The brand new kitchen was excellently equipped with stainless steel tables, new gas cooker, a larder freezer and a fridge/freezer together with a new hot water boiler.
The clubroom and the dining area were all furnished by the club with additional easy chairs in the bar area. The bar itself and bar store were fitted superbly and incorporated a chiller-cabinet as well as a glass washer.
The whole exercise had made a big hole in the club’s finances but members felt it was all worth-while. However the new lease with Warwick District Council had seen an enormous increase in rental and an Extraordinary General Meeting was called to review the financial situation. At this it was agreed to raise the subscription by £6, which was a big leap but it was hoped that this would be held for quite some time. The men’s rose to £ 26.50 and the ladies’ to £ 25.50.
At the end of July there was a test match against South Africa, at which the South African President stated that the facilities and greens were of the highest order and were a credit to the town. As well as hosting the ladies’ nationals, we also welcomed the Men’s Under 25 Home International series in September.
At the National Championships, Dr Bridget Hay won the national Champion of Champions title. In the South Warwickshire Pairs final, all four players were from the Leamington club.
A momentous year for the club, for the town, and for bowls generally.
Norma Day was elected President of Warwickshire Women’s Bowling Association in it’s 60th year, and apart from hosting the Presidents Day at the club, we also hosted a buffet reception following a service of Thanksgiving at All Saints Church, attended by 135 guests.
Pride of place during the year went to Women’s World Bowls which turned out to be a fantastic success. The whole town looked a picture with flowers everywhere, shops and stores decorated, and 32 huge flags, from all the competing countries, unfurled for the length of The Parade. Seating stands were erected all around the greens and there was large press and TV coverage showing the club in all its glory.
The greens had been brought to very good condition under green-keeper Veronica (Ronnie) Tabor, who was also a club member, and she featured largely in all the press coverage.
Our club ladies had raised over £2,000 to arrange a programme of events for the countries we were hosting - Malaysia, Holland and England - including a most enjoyable day out in the Cotswolds. As the clubhouse was virtually taken over by the organisers, our three countries, together with club members, joined up with the Irish team at the Whitnash club, their hosts, for a fantastic social evening.
The opening and closing ceremonies were both superb occasions and the friendship generated by the games was an example to all countries of what can be achieved in the name of sport.
Stan Winbush was selected as an International Umpire and was one of the team officiating at the games.
Not only was it the 60th Anniversary of the County Ladies’ BA, it was also the 21st year that the club had helped to host the EWBA National Championships at Leamington, and all club members were delighted when Nancie Colling, the long-serving secretary of the EWBA, was honoured with the award of the MBE for her services to bowls.
The British Isles Ladies Championships were held at Leamington in June, but the strain of all the effort that the members and officials had put into these celebrations obviously took toll on our playing, and the year’s results were well down on the previous year.
In an endeavour to encourage more members to play on a Saturday, an approach was made to all clubs for our games to start at 2.30pm from 1997 onwards.
Bill Ward and his son Nick were successful in winning the National Indoor Pairs Championship.
‘After the Lord Mayor’s Show’, this was a much quieter year.
By playing most fixtures away from home the previous year, there was an increase in home games, with the consequence that the men played 20 matches at home, with only 6 away. While this suited the players, it put quite a strain on the catering ladies with all the match teas to provide. In order to help them, a new dishwasher was purchased, and air conditioning was also installed in the kitchen.
Membership had dropped a little and it was decided to contact all the local schools in the area with the possibility of setting up a youth policy. The council were asked to provide some smaller bowls to assist with this.
The club tour was to Babbacombe where we won 4 out of the 6 games, and for the third year running we visited Llandrindod Wells. This time success was finally achieved by the huge margin of 2 shots!
Games hosted during the year were the county Four Associations competition, and a gala to mark the 75th anniversary of the Warwickshire CBA. The club also played the County President’s team under the leadership of Ian Flynn, a former member and secretary of the club.
Leamington ladies played a big part in the formation of the South Warwickshire Ladies Bowling Association.
The Travelsphere competition introduced by the EWBA the previous year to produce the club ‘Top Team’ nationally, saw our ladies become the county champions before going out of the competition to Bedfordshire by the narrow margin of 4 shots.
The Leamington galas had ostensibly been run in recent years by local clubs on our greens, but most of the organisation had been done by Peter Higgins, one of our members. The club therefore asked to take over the running of these events in the future. All the proceeds from the past galas were distributed among the local clubs, and a new committee from within the club was formed.
Myton Hospice was nominated as the charity for the club and over succeeding years a lot of money has been raised for this worthwhile cause, not only with the bar bottle but with many other events organised by members.
During the year the death was announced of Alfie Johnson, a long-serving and very active member of the club who was an Honorary Life Member.
Changes in management took place when long-serving president, John Whelan, stood down after 18 years at the helm. During his tenure the club had made great progress which in no small way could be attributed to his leadership qualities and his business acumen. His service to the club was outstanding.
At the Club Dinner at the end of the season a special presentation was made to John in appreciation of his sterling work for the club over so many years.
His close associate, Eddy Arnett also resigned as treasurer and the hard-working Stan Winbush, took over as president during a transition period. Stan had been a member since 1972, on the committee since the end of his first season, and had also been club captain.
All three were elected as Honorary Life members, along with Kay Brown, Kath Winbush, and Kay Wiles.
The quality of the greens saw us hosting many events during the season, including the county’s Middleton Cup games, the EBA v. the EBA Charity Trust, the British Isles Ladies Junior International series, the British Isles Men’s Junior International series, plus a men’s test match between England and Israel.
In addition the county played, and beat, Somerset in the quarter finals of the Middleton Cup. The Norfolk tourists were entertained by the club, and for the first time LLandrindod Wells came to Leamington for a most enjoyable and successful game . All this put a heavy load on our catering ladies (and men), and it became necessary to bring in outside caterers for some of the matches.
The club tour went to Eastbourne, mixed fixtures were introduced, and the youth policy made a promising start. By the end of the season 12 juniors had been made members of the club. However there were problems in maintaining interest during the winter months, and the indoor facility at Avon Valley was unable to help out. It was therefore decided to investigate the possibility of playing short mat bowls in the dining area of the club.
The first attempt to designate one evening a week as a club night was not very successful but it was decided to pursue the idea.
After the season ended the 3rd World Golf-Croquet championships were held on ‘C’ green.
A poor season from the playing point of view.
Both RLS 1 and RLS 2 were relegated from the 1st division of the Courier League but the Read trophy once again came to Leamington and youngsters were coming through to take part at county under 25 level. Alex Wallace, at the age of 15, became the youngest ever club prize-winner when, with Peter Chater, he shared the Donald Bowl.
Off the greens a number of innovations were taking place. Ivor Harris became President and a new committee structure was introduced with various sub-committees reporting to the Management Committee.
In an endeavour to boost bar profits the supplier was changed, and we were fortunate to have a bar-billiards table donated.
A club newsletter was introduced, and Tuesday evenings became the club night with the formation of an internal triples league plus the added incentive of an all-evening ‘Happy Hour’.
Two major steps were taken. Firstly, new rules were introduced allowing ladies to become equal members with the men, paying the same subscription and having equal rights within the club.
Secondly, a meeting was held with all the ladies at which they agreed to forego any payment for help they gave in the kitchen. Over previous years token payments had been made and these had crept up slowly until it was becoming a serious tax consideration for them and for the club. This gesture by them was very much appreciated and it was agreed that for some of the representative matches, outside caterers would be used.
Before the start of the season adverts were put in the local paper to try to attract new members, and this proved to be very successful.
There was a surprise in store for our ladies. A photograph had been discovered in the roof space at the club showing the founding committee of the ladies section taken in 1950. This was therefore their Golden Jubilee season, and unbeknown to them a party was organised for them at the club, attended by the presidents of the EWBA, Warwickshire Ladies, South Warwickshire Ladies, and other dignitaries.
The photograph had been re-framed and was presented to the Ladies Captain, in addition to a commemoration gift for each lady member and pennants for giving to opposing teams. A fixture had also been arranged for them, without their knowledge, against the county.
Coincidentally, but very appropriately, a lady was elected to the Management Committee in her own right for the first time.
Sadly, John Whelan, a president for 18 years and a life member, passed away. His contribution to the progress of the club had been enormous and is documented on other pages.
The Social Committee was working well and the clubhouse was starting to be used more in the winter months. It was helped with the installation of a public address system which covered both the clubroom and dining area and which has proved to be a real benefit to the club in many ways. To ensure better control of cash, new cash registers were installed in the bar.
On the greens there was a considerable improvement in form for the men, who were unbeaten at home and had their best season since 1987. The Courier League teams also picked their socks up, bouncing back to the first division after just one season, with RLS 1 taking the title in the 2nd division, and RLS 2 being runners up.
Not quite so pleasant was the fact that for the first time in living memory, 2 players were disciplined for their unacceptable behaviour on the green in a club match.
The ladies were not quite so successful (being 50 years old was obviously taking a toll!), but they had success once again by becoming county champions in the Top Club competition, but once more were unable to progress beyond that. They also came second in their celebration match against the County President’s team.
The county were hosted in two of their Middleton Cup games, and we also hosted the Ladies Home Internationals.
It was the 60th year that the Leamington Men’s Open Tournament had been held (there had been a gap during the war), but there was a lot of uncertainty about the future of this event. Sponsorship was not forthcoming and in consequence the prizes were not keeping pace with similar events, and the number of entrants was falling. Appeals were made to all local clubs for assistance.
Doug. Hughes retired as sports editor of the Courier after 20 years. He had been a strong supporter of bowls and had given our sport excellent coverage during his time at the helm.
Two new trophies were added to the club’s silverware. A handsome new cup was presented to the club by the family of the late Roy Womersley. He had been Club Champion on three occasions and it was decided to use this as the Men’s Championship trophy. To mark the turn of the century, the Millennium Bowl was purchased to replace the Imrie Shield, which was overflowing, and was to be used for competition in the Ladies Drawn Pairs